Thank you

Posted: Friday, July 22, 2005

... to McGilvray and Brahms

Recently the great stage of the Juneau-Douglas High School auditorium echoed with the text, harmonies and rhythms of Johannes Brahms.

Byron McGilvray, guest conductor of the Mid-Summer Vocal Festival, led the 55 voices in a very musical reading of the "German Requiem" of Johannes Brahms. The whole hour reminded us of musical experiences of years past. The seven movements were performed with no intermission or applause - which is very fitting. We missed the Brahms orchestration, but wow, what a stellar job the team of Sue Kazama and Doug Smith performed using the Brahms four-hand piano accompaniment. They received the standing ovation deserved for a great technical and artistic rendering on the Juneau Arts and Humanities Steinway piano. Kathleen Wayne, soprano and William Hurr, baritone gave fine performances filling the soloist roles as envisioned by Brahms to contrast with the choral sound. Festival participants came from as far away as Anchorage and Truckee, Calif., for the two week event.

McGilvray is a gift not only to Juneau, but continues on to the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, where he has been choral director for many years. He is professor emeritus of San Francisco State, where he built a great choral program as well as his own McGilvray Chorale of professional voices. He now fills his retirement years with college teaching near his hometown in Texas and guest leadership in locations across the U.S., including Juneau and Fairbanks.

The Brahms is a gem of the choral literature. This is only the third performance of the complete piece in recent years. The selection of text by Brahms is not the liturgical church requiem. The particular text and the wonderful melodies and harmonies have been favorites across the years. The late Martin Luther King Jr. cherished the Brahm text and music. Two of the movements, along with other MLK Jr. favorites, were sung in his memory in April 1968 in a great performance led by the late Leopold Stowkowski in the band shell at New York's Central Park - which included the Westminster Symphonic Choir and the American Symphony Orchestra.

So, Juneau friends when you have a chance to hear music performed "live" - we urge you to experience it. These opportunities do not come along everyday.

J. Allan MacKinnon

Director of music

Northern Light United Church

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